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The Banished by Paul Coey – 3/5 Stars

The Banished by Paul Coey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After reading the prequel to the Age of Endings series, The Messenger, where Falnir went through many trials to deliver his message in a world becoming ravaged by ancient monsters from the north, I had to try reading Paul Coey’s The Banished.

When Ruyen is destined to become a defender of all people, symbolised by a special sword, he makes many enemies: the monsters of the Nameless, Maidens, the King of Elsillore, and many other factions. As evil as the monsters of the Nameless are, their ghastly appearance is an expression of their evil. The evil of humanity, however, is subtle and conniving. Ruyen must navigate both types of evil if he is to not only lead people to challenge the Nameless’ invasion of the north, but prevent falling down the same path his predecessor did; to ruin, slaughter, and public hate.

I wanted to learn more about this small honourable man without much influence in court who is chosen by destiny. Ruyen’s predicament was intriguing and the way he found the sword and responded to the trapped situation he was put in made for marvellous reading. You can expect plot, conspiracies, arguments, and assassination attempts. It’s not until the last quarter of the story that the real action begins when the company are captured by bandits, and are on the run. Let me just say that my eyes were glued to the writing at this point and we saw examples of human evil that put the Nameless to shame. I had to know the outcome, and I still wasn’t sure which way events would turn. This was Paul Coey at his best. When The Banished ended, it ended too soon.

Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy The Banished anywhere near as much as I did The Messenger. The main reason is personal taste and the nature of the story. The beginning was the least interesting. There were too much back-and-forth arguments and legal procedures that made it difficult to make a connection with the characters, and reading it at times did feel like a legal essay. The author led me through too many doors into understanding his world. I needed a bridge to distinctive character voices and personalities, and I needed major plot simplification. There were times at the beginning when these problems didn’t overshadow the writing. For example, I had already made a connection with Falnir and I liked his response to groups when he is confronted regarding his message. Guilt and regret between male and female characters seems to be a theme that brings out tension in the author’s writing and brought out more passion in main character Ruyen and Kalmanec, just as it did with Falnir in The Messenger.

There was a lot positive about The Banished throughout. The writing was extremely good and well-researched. It’s without a doubt that the author knows his fantasy and can construct an authentic world with authentic and believable language and settings. When the author is at his best, or even his worst, you can see his strengths. I suspect the editing polished it so well there were few, if any, mistakes. Paul Coey is one of the great fantasy authors out there, and he takes his fantasy seriously. I’d recommend you try one of his stories and experience it for yourself because it is an ‘experience’.

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Destined

A short review on Inkitt to support an upcoming writer.

Destined

I really thought Destined was well extremely well written, with a nice literary style. The pace was just right, and kept me captivated. There were more romance and slice of life scenes in than science fiction ones, but surprisingly it didn’t bother me as much as it usually does.
My only criticisms are that many of the scenes weren’t as memorable to me as I’d hoped, which is why I scored Destined lower on plot. Maybe a bit more action or circumstance in the confrontation scenes would have helped to make the main character’s encounters with Enoch more memorable. Also a few paragraphs at the beginning told us about the world and its history, and I would have preferred to be shown in another way. Not too many mistakes.
The setting, feel, and connection between the characters was top notch. Pleasant reading experience that uses numerous themes for inspiration. I’ve a good feeling about Destined.

Read Destined on Inkitt

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Ambloome Princess of Giants – 4/5 Stars

Fast-forward poetry. A new earth man is picked up by a giantess each chapter. It rhymed and was fun to read, especially the innuendo and lines that ended in the characters coming closer.
I didn’t make a strong connection with many of the characters, but it is the nature of the writing.
The chapters would remind readers of what happened before, but sometimes it was easy to forget the events leading up to subsequent chapters (fast-forward poetry).
This is a fun read.

Read Ambloome Princess of Giants

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The Unlucky Man by HTG Hedges – 4/5 Stars

The Unlucky Man by HTG HedgesI don’t know what my expectations were for The Unlucky Man – I was looking for something dystopian, dark, and that I hadn’t read before – and believe it or not that’s what I got! I’d classify it as an urban dystopian fantasy with supernatural and thriller elements. Ultimately, it’s about ordinary man John Hesker who is talking with best friend Corg when a body smashes on top of their car. They’re questioned by an investigator called Whimsy, who is a man only half-interested in what they are saying and seems to ask his questions ‘on a whim’, so he was well-named. However, it’s not long before the dark elusive organisation called Control will send its most accomplished assassin Wychelo (like a witch with dark unnerving pools for eyes) to kill Jon and therefore hide its secrets. When a disturbing supernatural force is injected into Jon, he goes on the run, over Old Links bridge where there is no law and only savagery awaits.

Well, HTG Hedges has an eye for atmosphere and setting, which places the reader into a three-dimensional world that brought clarity and richness to every description of setting, and was applied consistently throughout. I’d say this was the best feature of his writing, and made me feel as if I was reading something new or rare. The writing from 76% captured me fully, immersing me into complete disorientation, which was the intention, into a graphic hell that was also somewhat pleasant on the senses to witness.

Criticism: it took me a while to remember who the villains were, especially their names and what distinguished them, because they had small parts and mainly from the point-of-view of Jon. Closer to the end there was a touch too much background information on the villains, which though missing before to add mystery, was inserted a little late in this relatively short novel. Third-person omniscient was used to re-shine a light on the villains at 67%, which though I worried the plot was crumbling at this point it did actually put things back into perspective where they had been missing in the car-chases and well-directed action scenes. Third-person and first-person point-of-view was mingled, which lent the story inconsistency and did become more noticeable as it progressed. On that same note, the author was adept at using first-person to add depth, colour, and contrast that I haven’t seen before when reading from first-person POV, but his use of third-person omniscient from 76% was a display of incredible writing. It seems the author needs to decide on where his strengths lie and how to use point-of-view with consistency to deliver maximum impact. I would have enjoyed this more if it was better balanced as well: two-thirds action and one-third background/conclusion didn’t move events forward in a way that I had hoped.

Overall, I don’t think HTG Hedges’ readers will be disappointed by his writing. The atmospheric descriptions, combined with metaphor, worked consistently well throughout. I was often curious where the plot was going, and when things turned chaotic I was utterly absorbed, with mouth agape. Piecing together the sub-elements of the plot didn’t come immediately to me, but when parts did they made sense and piqued my interest. There’s some terrific writing in this.

HTG Hedges’ Website

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The Time Machine by HG Wells – 5/5 Stars

The Time Machine by HG Wells

HG Well’s The Time Machine is Victorian science-fiction that combines time-travel with speculation on the fate of humanity’s future and modern civilisation. It’s an elegantly written novel, somewhat like an essay examining the strengths and weaknesses of the major political ideologies of the nineteenth century: Marx and Engels particularly.

Many parallels can be made between Marx’s vision of a communist utopia, and HG Well’s almost satirized version, which he witnesses in the future in 800, 000 years’ time. I message I comprehended was that a socially stratified society divided into a work-force and a privileged class would come back to haunt us in the future: that the measures and securities we enforce to create a strong distinction between the have’s and have-not’s will lead to a polarisation of intelligence, and indeed may invert it in a way we would least expect. Besides the obvious connections to make between the Time Machine and the time HG Wells lived in, there was little recognisable in the future for the modern reader.

The author has a peculiar, signature writing style that is eloquent, well thought-out, and not unlike Dickens. His ability to use the foundations of profound political thinkers and scientific knowledge to foresee a future that is so revolting, ugly, and well … unacceptable to most who live in the present; proves that he is willing to go where others don’t dare, and this is quite beside his unusual range of ideas.

Overall, I would not just simply recommend The Time Machine; after having read the War of the Worlds; it would be foolish at this stage not to recommend the author himself.

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The Messenger by Paul Coey – 5/5 Stars

The Messenger by Paul Coey“Your letter is paramount, Falnir Aasberg”. “Elsillore will remember our ancient ties”. “And do not falter”.

The Messenger is a dark epic fantasy adventure that centres on Falnir Aasberg’s duty as messenger to deliver a message to secure support. The Nameless have breached the wall at Thune, spreading horror and evil wherever they go, revelling in the torture and suffering of innocent human families. They have spilled across the southern reaches, escaping past the guards of Rangers to kill indiscriminately across the plains. Atrocity, distrust, and violence will greet Falnir as he, often accompanied by Rangers, must make his way past the habits of his enemies for the survival of the Seven Kingdoms.

Falnir’s deep regret and guilt at having devastated his marriage with infidelity comes back to haunt him when his wilful wife Annas is adamant that she will accompany him to deliver his message, as an act of retribution. Concerned for his wife’s welfare across the Nehme Plains, Falnir will need more than Rangers to see him through to Elsillore: seeing death, bandits, and encountering the Nameless’ feline monsters (fios). It soon becomes clear Falnir is not a paragon of virtue, indeed he despises those (Rangers or Maidens) who see themselves as such. As a result, he does not appear to be a reliable choice for the survival of the kingdoms, but one thing I did notice was his instinct for survival, considering immoral choices and running away when he knew the odds were not in his favour.

The second part of the adventure was probably the most vivid and exhilarating, and that is when we are introduced to charismatic axe-wielding ranger leader Rado, who is of impressive width and strength. Falnir saw something of a role model in Rado and his fellow rangers, and for a time it allowed him to protect people, love a woman, forget tormenting thoughts, and fight against evil in its purest form. You won’t be disappointed with the action in this part of the story, I assure you! There is another chase at the end, which made me read far more than I thought I could of this epic. I should probably, ahem, mention that The Messenger is not for the faint-hearted, having its share of the grim, gruesome, horrible, and quite disturbing.

I liked the grim medieval atmosphere, which was rich in detail, and this led me to conclude that the genre and setting were well-researched. I did sometimes enjoy the banter and interplay between Falnir and other such undesirables, which was foulmouthed, dirty, grim, and utterly filthy. I would say more than a few passages were very elegantly written, which combined with what I suspect was superb editing or proofreading, really gave The Messenger a literary quality. Third person point-of-view and tenses were used confidently and the ebook was remarkably clear to read.

Criticism: There were some scenes that had too many place names or were otherwise riddled with overly descriptive passages of hills, woods, horses, and mountainsides. The detail was rich, but I suppose I can’t have it both ways. Some themes repeated a bit too often and noticeably, such as Falnir made to feel guilty for acts others could not prove, being sent with new groups of rangers, and waking up in a healing hut.

Falnir’s tribulations; combined as they were with heroism, suffering, monsters, friendship, and unconscionable deeds; made for a startlingly disturbing and revelatory read that really hit Falnir hard. The reader saw the full roster of good and evil, and in many guises. The Messenger is a terrific read, put simply. Every time it slowed down or dipped into description, it would rise yet again with confrontation, intriguing scenarios, and terrifying hunts. Were you impressed with the beginning of this read, and with all the blood, gore, and action? The setting changes, but at its core is Falnir and a journey that makes Bilbo Baggins’ seem quite trivial. The author has worked a grand piece of fiction here, and anybody looking to dip into some real dark fantasy that tests the body and mind of its character should look no further.

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Star Wars: Darth Bane: Rule of Two by Drew Karpyshyn – 4/5 Stars

Darth Bane Rule of Two by Drew Karpyshyn

The sequel to Darth Bane: Path of Destruction, Rule of Two continues with Darth Bane and his apprentice Zannah as they make connections and exploit political tensions in order to fortify the Republic against any rival groups that threaten it. Bane does this because he knows that the Republic, one target, can be more easily manipulated than many. With his abundant patience and secrecy, his plans will eventually lead to the destruction of the entire Jedi.

In the aftermath of the Battle of Ruusan, where the thought bomb weapon wiped out nearly all Sith and many Jedi, new political developments are occurring. The Jedi, confident that their enemies are now extinct, are making the fatal decision to retire as warriors and hand over political power to the politicians of the Republic. Young Jedi Johun Othone thinks that the battles and sacrifices made by the Jedi in the war against the Sith are in vain now that the Jedi are relinquishing their political power, and he can’t rid himself of the suspicion that a formidable Dark Lord of the Sith may still survive to rise again.

I really enjoyed the exploration of themes relating to the aftermath on Ruusan, and how the war affected the planet’s atmosphere and inhabitants. This element of back-story, along with the back-story throughout with regard to other planets and civilisations, made Rule of Two rich in detail and well thought-out. There were some nice ideas in there too, such as parasites that can grant unlimited strength, but possession of which can lead to some problems. I thoroughly liked reading through the entirety of this well-polished novel, which had some jaw-opening events close to the end. Apprentice Zannah was just the sort of character I wanted to learn more from, being ruthless, creative, and yet not completely swayed by the dark side. Such things as love, care, and doubt were still small uncertainties for her. Even though the source of her strength in the dark side is not as obvious or concentrated as her master’s, I did respect her intelligence in supporting the Sith Order.

Criticism: I didn’t find Rule of Two to be as exciting and compelling as Path of Destruction, which impeccably described Bane’s struggle and had many twists and turns. But then, POD did set a very high standard. Some of the passages were too descriptive, and maybe it could have been balanced better by focusing more on apprentice Zannah’s development as a character.

SPOILER: The orbalisks’ weakness was electricity, which surprised me because I rather thought or hoped that it was their own power fuelled by Bane that led to their destruction.

If you liked Path of Destruction, or even if you haven’t read it, I recommend Rule of Two. The battles were well-described and critically believable. The author has done his research on this, borrowing ideas, technologies, and scenes from the films and using them to great effect to bring the Old Republic to life.

Drew Karpyshyn’s Website

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The Watch by Briana Herlihy – 4/5 Stars

 

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Firstly, before I say anything else, I will say that The Watch is a stimulating post-apocalyptic sci-fi adventure with flowing writing and overall a well put-together story. It’s about the Union, struggling to rebuild Earth in the wake of the terrifying Doctors (“wet his flaying knife before peeling off her skin”) and the uncontrollable Filavirus. However, at Base One (Union HQ) there is a hope for a band of vigilantes to escape on the ship Clarity, but first they need a Watch…

Orphan Ren has been running from the Doctors since childhood, as a presumed carrier of the Blood Plague. When she is captured by rough-around-the-edges vigilante leader Sloan, she attempts to join his armed group for protection and companionship. First she needs to convince them that she and the Watch that she wears can be assets for the group to use to gain entry into Base One, if she is to ensure her own survival. As conversations took the form of jabs at Ren’s ignorance, morality, and “Disposable” class; we are provided with short glimpses into Ren’s past, which made me wonder who Ren really was in the world she was only beginning to understand and of what her destiny would turn out to be. Ren’s adventure is made difficult because of her perceived complicity in the group’s uncompromising fight for survival because she is a moon-soul, required by monk instruction to be compassionate above all else.

The descriptions of the characters made for an absorbing visual adventure and the writing had a nice flow and rhythm that kept my mind bouncing through pleasantly. This skill was demonstrated early on, and it made for a good impression. Briana Herlihy’s attention to detail was superb: be it clothing, ships, the setting, rifles, or abstract technologies. It wasn’t too scientific, and its abstract sci-fi could probably pass as steampunk because it was set in a society that wasn’t too primitive or advanced. I would certainly consider reading more from this author. If it’s her debut novel, then it was one of the most engaging and well-written debut novels I can remember reading for a while. I was brought into the world effortlessly, and the bonds and contrast between the characters never tired.

Criticism: I found more than a few misspelled or incorrect words, in only the first three chapters. These continued throughout, but didn’t obstruct from the narrative or flow. Sometimes there were too many character directions in the same paragraph, which made it difficult to keep track of the general idea of what was happening at any given moment. Individual characteristics of each character were strong, which was likely why the author emphasised these repeatedly, though this particular problem only began to bother me in the second half of the story.

It’d be nice to know how the author found the inspiration for The Watch. Indeed, I’d go as far as to say the theme, or otherwise combination of genres, does have a stroke of originality in it. The Watch will definitely appeal to both hard scientific sci-fi readers and those who prefer their sci-fi otherwise like myself, for the attention to detail had a character-focused “soft sci-fi” delivery. I wonder if this is a winning combination? Either way, I have a feeling this series will be well-received.

Author’s website

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Awaken by HJ Daly – 5/5 Stars

Awaken by HJ Daly
(The Sword of Idis – Book 2)
‘After all this time, all she wanted was revenge’. Awaken is an epic fantasy adventure, with a traditional fantasy magical realm and urban human realm, set in a post-apocalyptic world after the Pulse, a weapon used in a past war which caused catastrophe and revealed the magical realm. Awaken mainly focuses on the point-of-view of half-breed Esa as she comes to terms with how she feels about Thomas when he left her to her fate after the Battle of the Realms, which was when the Council (of Elves?) took Esa and then let her go. The reader is deliberately kept in the dark about what exactly happened, and discovering the truth was one of the intriguing mysteries for the characters around Esa.

Esa has to contend with her risen status as somebody of consequence, but still struggles to receive the respect she by no means expects. The elves are superior, arrogant, and disdainful of “inferior” races. They think they can act in the best interests of all, and are happy to use any means to achieve their goals. However, for Esa, fighting off Thomas and the strong feelings she has for him is as much of a challenge as her relations with elves. It’s easy to see how Esa has matured in the second book. She’s strong enough to cast Thomas aside to protect her feelings. All she needs is to stop letting her falls get the better of her willpower, and to be careful her growing independence doesn’t alienate her friends.

At only 10% through, I could see terrific flowing writing and interesting character dynamics, such as when Rootu wished to find juicy bugs and show them at inappropriate times like at dinner, which made me laugh out loud a few times. Indeed, Rootu’s inappropriate behaviour was his one discernible flaw, though I found it funny most of the time. Rootu was the most captivating character for me, being the adorable insect-catching Spinner. Apart from the dark humour he brought, as a companion he is Esa’s most pleasant constant, willing to sacrifice himself for her happiness even though he is sad and lonely himself.

The first fight scene at 20% through was brief, well described visually, and exciting. I soon came to the conclusion that Awaken had quality writing. HJ Daly has a focus and control over her characters, more so than in the first book Pulse. The reader is brought clearly and progressively into the world at the right pace that made it easy to comprehend. When situations were repeated, like when all the characters looked at Esa, they were perceived differently: ‘pity parted starting again’, which made the same things appear new and interesting. I became completely invested in the characters’ lives, so much so that I found myself cross when they weren’t able to find happiness. Impossibly, the writing turned up a notch in the last 10%, and the scenes flowed visually and cinematically at very exciting pace and I read much more than I intended to. It was a reminder that the author can spin an immersive fight when she wants to, and at this point I found myself needing to know how Awaken would end.

Criticism: Sometimes the point-of-view switches felt too sudden and produced a jarring effect, and the scene breaks marking the passage of time or events might have been clearer. Also, I got confused who exactly Marcus was; a character from the first book?

Awaken was a vast improvement, well put-together, and with emotionally driven characters that brought out humour, sadness, conflict, and pain. I was brought into the story through the characters’ differences, and their adventures never bored me. Yes, prepared to be stunned with this sequel.

Awaken on Goodreads

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Persona Kory Mae by R Mac Wheeler – 3/5 Stars

Persona Kory Mae by R Mac Wheeler

Toni is a tough captain who can handle herself well and takes jobs for the Merchant Corps, raising enough money to pay to build her dream ship Kory Mae. However, when she is brutally assaulted by a co-pilot, she must take time off and forge friendships which could well determine her future direction in life. From the cover and description, you can deduce that PKM is a strong female protagonist sci-fi space-opera, but what is not as easily apparent are the investigative, spy, and political subgenres.

What I liked: The connection between Toni and shipmate Rob brought Toni’s personality to life early on, and made me see PKM as character-driven. Toni’s powerful memories: of bullying, her inferiority with her tiny size, and her determination to train and fight against anything big and bulky thrown at her did make me respect her. My interest grew more profound from ch.11, where the environment, setting, and characters were described more clearly, and some of the subplots were put into perspective. My interest in PKM was consistent, and this mostly circulated around Toni and her interaction with her crew or enemies. As PKM developed, my fondness for the sub-characters did gradually grow, and through Toni I became both interested in and knowledgeable about their personalities and habits.

Criticism: the importance and relevance of the sub-characters in the plot was at times lost on me, up until the final two chapters. Apart from a horrific incident at the beginning, I did find PKM difficult to get into. The scenes stopped and started with new conversations and settings without an exciting overarching objective that I understood. Throughout PKM, it was not always clear who was speaking when they were; I shouldn’t have been able to notice this. The plot was in a tangle, and it wasn’t easy for me to connect the dots since the action scenes appeared unrelated; perhaps this was intended because it was semi-investigation? As a result I could not immerse myself in the plot.

Overall, I liked when PKM was character-driven, but was not overly fond of the plot. I’m a reader who likes the setting and technology to be explained, rather than taken for granted so PKM could well suit many sci-fi readers who prefer their fiction otherwise. There is enough to like with PKM, with intriguing characters and promising writing.

Persona Kory Mae on Goodreads

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